Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Remembering my grandmother...

When my grandmother died, her obituary read as follows:
“Born September 28, 1925, in Keokuk, Iowa, the daughter of Francis and Glenna (Holton) Barber, Aloise married Irwin J. "Wyn" Cox, Jr. on March 7, 1944, in Covington, Kentucky.

She was a member of First United Methodist Church of DeKalb and its women's circle. Aloise was a majorette in her Hamilton (Illinois) High School Marching Band. She enjoyed cooking for family and friends and was generous with her time and talents.”

            There was other information as well about where she died and about her survivors, etc, but these two paragraphs are supposed to be the ones that give you a sense of who she was. But it doesn’t, does it?
            Over the years my relationship with her became more complicated than I care to share, and the reasons for it were deeply rooted. Still, I loved her, and I know that she loved me in her way.
            Her 91st birthday is tomorrow. Today I am remembering her in ways that not everyone knew her.

Born Sept 28, 1925

She used to tell me about growing up in Hamilton, Illinois. As an only child she was her parents’ pride and joy. Her father, Francis, was mayor of Hamilton for a while, and I think that made the family important. She could be proper or climb a tree, and that was the spirit that would make her strong later in life to handle all the challenges that she would face. She especially loved it when her father would take her out in his rowboat on the Mississippi River to go fishing. They liked catching channel catfish the most. 

When I was a little girl, I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents both before and after my parents’ divorce. Most of my time was spent with my grandma. She always recorded her soap operas. Young and the Restless. Bold and the Beautiful. As the World Turns. Guiding Light. I loved watching them with her, especially Young and the Restless. Michael Damian was probably my first crush, after Michael Jackson, of course.

Her house was certainly her domain, but saying that minimalizes and trivializes what that meant. She created a safe haven for all of her grandchildren. I can still see each nook and cranny of that house, and I find myself wishing over and over that I could take my own kids there so they could experience it for themselves. 

It was a three bedroom ranch, and my grandparents’ bedroom was always where my older cousins and I would watch Three’s Company. (Which, incidentally, I was way too young for.) The living room never changed, except at Christmas when an artificial tree was put up. As a little girl I thought that tree was the biggest thing ever, and I loved lying underneath it, looking up into the colored lights.
The family room contained the massive table where family dinners were held, as well as the couch and recliners where TV was always watched. (Soap operas and Wheel of Fortune, of course.) There was a crocheted brown and orange blanket that I loved to curl up under. 

There was a crazy colored zebra couch in the finished basement, but I never wanted to play down there for long because my grandfather had a clown collection, and I’m not fond of clowns. Once summer my grandma did keep me down there long enough to teach me how to use her sewing machine, a skill that has stuck with me for life. 

Every time I walk through the house in my mind, I see my grandma. That house was her doing, and that was a spectacular feat for anyone. 

She did love to cook. Food was an essential component of her life. Feeding people made her feel good because it was about caring for them. I remember her homemade noodles, the nachos she made, or the milkshakes when I was sick.

My memories of her add depth to an otherwise short biography of her life, but of course that’s not the whole story. It wouldn’t be, it couldn’t be. My grandmother was more than my memories, more than any of the memories people have of her. I do miss her, and I hope that she knows that.

Died Oct 15, 2014

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